Total Syntax: A Crash Course in Grammar, Diction & Phrasemaking

Total Syntax: A Crash Course in Grammar, Diction & Phrasemaking

Explode the envelope of language to understand syntax, fragmentation, grammar and constraint

This course will offer a panoramic view of modern poetic language and jumpstart experimentation in different syntaxes. We will start with the basics, shoring up knowledge and understanding how poems use ordinary grammar – or simple sentences – in different ways, looking at poets like Robert Lowell and Claudia Rankine. From there, we will plunge into the modernist fragment, chuck away our main verbs á la Imagism, Gertrude Stein, and Charles Olson. We will learn where between those two poles of obedient grammar and outright fragmentation we want to sit, which constraints are useful and which inhibiting – like Picasso learning how to draw beautifully, unlearning everything with Cubism, and then slowly recovering that original knowledge on his own terms. We will become confident in handling linguistic concepts that we will use to spot what a poem or a sentence is doing, without stifling our basic instincts or pleasure in language. This will be a fun and instructive course, a novel way of thinking about grammar and syntax, and we will experiment with our poems using the full cocktail bar of syntax.

5 fortnightly sessions on Tuesdays, 6.45pm – 8.45pm.  30 April, 14 May, 28 May, 11 June, 25 June.

All classes will be in our offices at 1 Dock Offices, Surrey Quays Road, Canada Water, SE16 2XU. The venue is a 2-minute walk from Canada Water Station. Take the ‘Lower Road’ exit from the station onto Surrey Quays Road, then walk straight ahead, crossing over Deal Porters Way, and the Dock Offices come up on the left. The door for the school is at the far end of the building.

More information about how all our face-to-face courses work can be found on the Face-to-Face courses page.

Image credit: Peter Roome

About Dai George View Profile

Dai George’s first collection was The Claims Office (Seren, 2013), an Evening Standard book of the year. His work has been published in Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, The White Review, the Guardian and elsewhere. He is an editor at Poetry London and Prac Crit.

‘I knew next to nothing about writing or reading poetry when I enrolled for my first Poetry School course – since then I have learned SO MUCH, had work accepted for publication and gained so much creative confidence. As an older student, these courses have really got my brain and creativity working again. I am completely hooked now!’

– Autumn 2018 survey response

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